The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Americans fed up with youth-oriented films
- moviegoing audience getting older

Many Americans appear to be fed up with Hollywood'sobsession with youth and grosses. This summer, audiences seemed to tire of blockbusters, with such highly hyped movies as XXX and Men in Black II opening big and dropping significantly in subsequent weeks. Many small- and medium-budget adult-oriented films performed well, such as the Inuit-language film The Fast Runner, which took in more than $3 million, and One Hour Photo, which has grossed $14.5million in almost a month.

With $124 million since May, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is still going strong. Over the last month, there have been congressional hearings, protests and state legislation to combat Hollywood’s perceived ageism. California Gov. Gray Davis signed a Bill to help “educate the entertainment industry about the lucrative and untapped market of consumers over 40.”

Although Hollywood’s target audience continues to be teenage boys, recent demographic statistics suggest that the fastest-growing sector of the moviegoing audience is people older than 50. In 1990, young adults ages 16 to 20 made up 20 percent of the audience. In 2000, that number shrank to 17 per cent, while the per centage of moviegoers ages 50 to 59 doubled to 10 per cent.

This year, audiences will see more older women at the movies, with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn in The Banger Sisters, Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander and Patricia Clarkson in Welcome to Collinwood and Far From Heaven. But none of those roles shows the women as sexually desirable — with the possible exception of Hawn’s somewhat pathetic aging groupie character.

Raising money and then actually getting a studio interested in The Banger Sisters was excruciating, producer Mark Johnson said. “It was very difficult to find a home for a movie about two middle-aged women. It’s not the stuff of what the studios want.” The movie was finally made for $10 million, and Sarandon and Hawn were paid $500,000 each.

Plum roles for women older than 40 are so rare that when a meaty one does come along, there is a crush of talent knocking down the door. Director Nancy Meyers, who revived Diane Keaton’s career with her and her former partner Charles Shyer’s Baby Boom and hit it big two years ago with What Women Want, is working on a movie with an unlikely premise — a 50-year-old man (played by Jack Nicholson) dumps his twenty-something girlfriend for her mother (Keaton).

Meyers said she was inundated with calls from agents pitching their clients for the role that eventually went to Keaton.

“The baby boom generation is getting older and is going to embrace seeing characters who are like them and are sexual and vibrant,” she said.

Hollywood’s current notion of an older woman-younger man love affair is casting “Jennifer Aniston as the older woman,” said Meyers, referring to Aniston’s current film, The Good Girl, in which she has an affair with a young store clerk.

“Women my age want to see themselves reflected on the screen,” she said. “I know that life for us remains interesting.”

In The Banger Sisters, Goldie Hawn stars as Suzette, a faded groupie who pulls into Phoenix to rap at the door of Vinnie (Susan Sarandon), her old partner in backstage trolling, now an uptight Carol Brady monster who goes by Lavinia. She appears to have spent her post-Zeppelin years breathing Air Supply and reeking of soccermom chic pearls, the PTA, and a politician husband. Her family knows nothing of her sleazy former life.

Suzette and Vinnie have been with the band and still have the Polaroids of the members’ members to prove it. But this was decades ago, and now they're older and left to wonder (but not too much) what's become of their lives.

After a few rocky run-ins, though, the kind you find only in terrible screenplays and the opening sequences of Motley Crue videos, the women rebuild their bond by squeezing into leather pants and scoopneck tops and hitting the local bar

Sarandon has been outspoken for years on the subject of actresses still being sexually vital and commercially viable even while experiencing hot flashes.

You don’t cringe at the sight of Sarandon and Hawn tarted up and getting down to Burning Down the House in a nightclub because they're not hot.

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